Directed by: Adrián García Bogliano
Written by: Eric Stolze
Starring: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Erin Cummings, Rutanya Alda, Tom Noonan
Year: 2014
Country: USA, Mexico
BBFC Classification: 18

Ambrose McKinley (Damici) is a war veteran suffering from blindness who has just moved into a seemingly quiet retirement village to live out his remaining years. Contending with a new environment, a strained relationship with his son (Embry) and the overzealous interest from the other residents, Ambrose soon finds himself dealing with an all together different beast: a giant, on the rampage werewolf. No sooner has he moved in, than he senses the beast when it attacks and kills his neighbour. Realising the beast will strike again at the next full moon, Ambrose has a month to adapt his fighting skills in order to stop the beast’s ever bloodthirsty rampage.

Released a few years back now (and originally reviewed by Blueprint Review’s Justin Richard here) this is a welcome Blu Ray release of this cult monster flick. An indie film packed with familiar faces, the appeal of Late Phases is how it blends a character drama with a full-on werewolf flick. While the titular beast is seen early out the gate when it attacks on Ambrose’s first night in his new home (in a great scene of monster action!), the film changes track slightly as Ambrose discovers he has a month (when the moon will be full again!) until the next attack. The film then becomes more of a slow burn as Ambrose learns his new surroundings, prepares to fight the beast and deals with the various strained relationships with those around him.

Eschewing camp for a more serious tone (though there are still a few sly winks here and there!), Late Phases welcomely plays proceedings straight, as we learn more about Ambrose, his past and his affliction. He’s more than just a cantankerous old man but a former soldier somewhat lost in the world, his skills no longer needed in the life of a retiree. However, he finds purpose again through his fight with the beast and sees a chance to perhaps go out the way he wanted: a soldier’s death, defeating evil. Nick Damici (Stakeland, We Are What Are) is great as Ambrose humanising a potentially unlikeable character and providing a convincing foe to the werewolf despite his age and lack of sight. Director Adrián García Bogliano (Here Comes the Devil) keeps the tone the right side of too serious, keeps a sense of dread permeating proceedings, and fills the film with offbeat characters giving the likes of Tom Noonan and Lance Guest meaty roles to chew on. It’s also refreshing to see the focus be on the older generation who have to use their wits and what they have around them to defeat the evil, rather than the typically overly-preened, overly-confident and overly-relying-on-modern-tech youngsters that can often clog up the horror genre.

The slow burn pace and retirement home setting add to the originality and the structure (the wolf only appearing on a monthly cycle) means the film builds to its big werewolf showdown. And what a showdown it is! While a character drama as much as a horror film, Late Phases still delivers the werewolf carnage and transformations. When Ambrose finally takes on the beast, the filmmakers stage some great monster action carnage and throw in a fair few surprises as well. Coupled with the great make up effects and that there is (mercifully) little ambiguity about the creatures (there’s no doubt these are big fuck off werewolves!) means Late Phases ends with a monster bang.

A smart and serious werewolf film that also delivers the fun, Late Phases is a monster blast.

Late Phases will be released on Blu-ray in the UK, 16th November 2020 from 101 Films.

Special Features:

  • Commentary with director Adrián García Bogliano
    • FX Featurette –
    30-minute look into the creature effects workshop and how the designers created the film’s awesome werewolves. From design, to fabrication, to adding the smallest details, to testing the full body wolf suit, this informative doc covers every stage. It’s a little dry as there is no narration/music as it’s basically just a fly-on-the-wall look inside the effects workshop. Still, it’s fascinating stuff, especially for effects buffs, and the footage of the team testing and filming with the full wolf suit is cool stuff.
    • Making of Featurette –
    Short and sweet making of feature looking at the making of the film, featuring interviews with most of the key players. Insightful and cool to see how passionate everyone was/is about the film.
    • Trailer
Late Phases – 101 Films
4.0Overall Score
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"To tell you the truth I don't think this is a brains kind of operation." Way of the Gun (2000)

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